Gender, State and Medicine in Highland Ecuador: Modernizing Women, Modernizing the State, 1895-1950

By Kierans, Ciara | Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Gender, State and Medicine in Highland Ecuador: Modernizing Women, Modernizing the State, 1895-1950


Kierans, Ciara, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies


A. Kim ClaRKe, Gender, State and Medicine in Highland Ecuador: Modernizing Women, Modernizing the State, 1895-1950. Pitts- burgh, Pa: university of Pittsburgh Press. 2012. 247 pp. iSBn 978-0-8229-6209-0.

Set in the context of a modernizing state, in the period following ecuador's liberal revolu- tion, historical anthropologist a. Kim Clark focuses attention on the pivotal position of women as both objects and agents of political and social reforms. The changing domains of reproductive health, sexuality and child protection are examined as emerging arenas for new opportunities and possibilities for the professionalization of women's roles in medicine and health care. drawing on archival evidence about the lives of women such as Matilde Hidalgo, the first woman physician to graduate from the university Central in Quito in 1920, and maría luisa gómez, a teacher and political activist at Quito's instituto nacional mejía, Clark documents the experiences of peripheral, ordinary women with differential access to social and economic capital, those who challenged the status quo by entering formal education and seized opportunities for political participation.

Clark's sensitivity to her subject matter is driven by a robust methodological orienta- tion to the interweaving of state and citizen- ship. While emphasizing the new forms of biopolitics at play in early twentieth-century ecuador, Clark is careful to draw out the tensions between a complex configuration of actors: state institutions, churches, donor agencies and the lives and experiences of vari- ously stratified constituencies of men and women. She does this to show how legislative controls, moral injunctions, financial induce- ments and efforts to monitor and control reproductive behaviour both challenge and are challenged by the aspirations and efforts of women. Her analysis depends upon an understanding of the state as seen through its everyday mundane practices and the often contradictory efforts and objectives of state actors. This methodological sensitivity enables Clark to challenge dominant repre- sentations of the state as a determining force in the lives of its citizens, 'standing above and apart and then acting on society'. …

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